July 2 2009|03.57 PM UTC

Stan Reybern

The Recession and the American Airline Industry

Category: UncategorizedTags: , ,

Recent trips to the airport have left me in amazement at the seeming decline in airline provisions and the imposition of new fees on almost every service of value to travelers. Disheartening to say the least, what was once taken for granted can now ding you for a hefty chunk of your hard-earned money. With many airlines struggling to stay afloat, these fees are necessary in order to maintain their current level of service and implement new technologies that help them to remain competitive. Here is a handy guide to each airline’s pricing for additional services to help you know for what you are going to have to pay, before you buy your ticket.

(click to enlarge)

Airline Industry

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Katie July 2, 2009 at 6:58 pm

I am actually flying with airtran tomorrow with my cat, and they must have recently jacked the price of cabin pets because it cost me $69 when I booked my flight in early June.


Joseph Hughes July 2, 2009 at 7:14 pm

The airlines have been close to the profit line for a long time. They are entitled to make money. And I don’t want them to skimp on safety. I have no problem with them charging for services that were previously free. They weren’t really free.
Let them make a profit for the services provided.


Broge July 2, 2009 at 7:30 pm

SOUTHWEST AIRLINES IS KING! IMHO never late and never a bad flight and never optional charges. REAL PEOPLE when you call on the phone….Priceless
Thanks Southwest Airlines Philly departures


todd July 2, 2009 at 7:46 pm

Continental’s hub is in Houston, TX. You might want to move the yellow dot from Corpus Christi to Houston.


Anonymous July 2, 2009 at 7:47 pm

The problem isn’t that they are making too much profit. These fees are intentionally kept hidden. Were they simply to incorporate it into the cost of the ticket there wouldn’t be a problem. I can see certain services that aren’t standard having a fee; say taking a pet along. But to book the flight by telephone or check a bag?


Frequent Flier July 28, 2010 at 6:28 am

I agree with your complaint on the hidden fees. Flying US Airways, I did not know about the checked-bag fee until after they sent me an email the day before the flight. When I called to ask about it, the “gentleman” who took my call was very rude and argumentative. I have flown hundreds of times, yet since I was unaware of US Airways hidden baggage fees, he criticized me and demeaned my experience as worthless. He said that the fees were listed in the online “Terms and Conditions” and he would not admit that failing to clearly display the fees on the same page where the airfares are listed equated to hiding the fees. That person has no business working in contact with the public. It is just as important for me to say (but this comment is purposefully hidden at the end) that the rest of the people involved were great.


jose July 2, 2009 at 7:51 pm

continental airlines charges 250 for a flight change i know i had a flight schedule to london that i was not able to make and now its going to cost me almost 35o ,because they will charge you fees again, dollars to rebook the flight for a later time. in my opinion this is absurd because its not like they lost anything by allowing you to switch the flight im sure the seat was take up by someone else so they did not lose any money.


heatherly July 2, 2009 at 8:07 pm

I don’t have a problem with them making a profit, I just wish they’d be up front about it instead of scamming me.

I booked a flight for two people and they gave us seats in completely separate rows! Which, of course, we couldn’t find out until it was time to check in and we were given our seat assignments. We were given the option to change it then–for $15-$35 per seat, per person.

And of course we couldn’t just move one person to the other’s row, as both rows were booked. So we had to move both seats to a new row. For both flights (there was a layover). Total cost to sit together, on the flight we booked together and already paid for on one card? $170.

170 unplanned dollars, at the end of our trip, when we were already tapped.

Thanks United.


Brian Kim July 2, 2009 at 8:28 pm

Looks like Southwest Airlines is the way to fly


BillShrink Guy July 2, 2009 at 8:37 pm

jose pointed out something that we forgot to mention, for everyone’s information, the fees listed for flight change are the fees to request the flight change. Most airlines will also apply any additional differences in applicable fare along with the flight change fee.

For those that may be wondering, here are some of the fees for Virgin America, a somewhat recent addition to the lineup of low-cost airliners:

Checked bags: $15 (+$50 if 51-70 lbs, +$100 if 71 to 100 lbs).

Wifi: $9.95 for flight under 3 hours and $12.95 for flight over 3 hours.

Unaccompanied minor: $75 per child, per direction charge.

Pets: $100

Flight change: additional $50 for online reservation, $75 through other channels, plus any applicable fare differences.


jG July 2, 2009 at 8:40 pm

I just flew ANA (All Nippon Airways) to Taiwan last week and instantly realized I’m wasting my money and shouldering unnecessary abuse by flying any US airline, specifically United.

They really put even the best US airlines to total shame in the first 5 minutes aboard. They’re part of the same FF system as United so you don’t sacrifice that. Too bad they don’t fly major domestic US routes. US airlines could learn something from them.

One data point about all US airlines: other than Southwest, absolutely no US airline has ever had a positive net present value back to their founding: in other words all have done no better than break even since their founding, and in most cases not even done that well.


Sam July 2, 2009 at 8:44 pm

Who put this map of airline hubs together? It’s totally wrong. JetBlue with a hub in Montana?! United’s hub is not in Salt Lake City, but rather in Denver. Alaska Air Group, which is a major U.S. carrier (with over $1 Billion in revenue annually), was somehow missed entirely in this analysis even though it has large hubs in Seattle and Los Angeles. I could go on with other examples (such as the fact that you missed out entirely on the former Northwest hubs in Detroit, Minneapolis, and Memphis, which are now with Delta, or the fact that Delta’s Cincinnati hub looks like it’s in Dayton) but I think you get the idea…


BillShrink Guy July 2, 2009 at 8:46 pm

heatherly: ack. that’s a rough one. seems overkill for them to not be able to accommodate you initially upon the booking. You would think the reservation system will automatically sit you next to each other base on availability (and seeing as how you were able to move to another row that had space for both of you). I do believe United has an online reservation system now that will allow you to choose you seats (again, based on availability) before you check-in…

todd: I believe Corpus Christi is actually a bit further down south in Texas.

sam: We’ll fix the misplaced dots as soon as possible.. the snafu happened because of similar named airports and things got mixed up in design exchange. (Logan International Airport in Boston vs Billings Logan International Airport in Monata). We also didn’t intend to list every major airlines or major regional airlines and the same apply to hubs. Take Southwest for example, which has focus cities instead of hubs, are listed at only 5 location on this map, while they actually have about a dozen focus cities (airports).


Alton July 2, 2009 at 9:16 pm

On a recent flight from LAS to JFK, Virgin America charged the $9.95/$7.95 as the other airlines.
It should also be noted Virgin America charges for all food items – except basic beverages.
Not complaining – I’ve only had good experiences on VA, just clarifying and contributing.


BillShrink Guy July 2, 2009 at 9:29 pm

Thanks for the note Alton, you’re right that it’s $9.95 (and I just checked, looks like it gets more expensive if your flight is longer than 3 hours! ouch!). I was writing off memory and thinking of their beta phase when the wifi was initially released.


Ruggy July 2, 2009 at 9:55 pm

Now that Delta and NorthWest are merged, you need to include the legacy NorthWest hubs on the map, rather than excluding them completely.

Minneapolis, Memphis, Detroit… not sure if any others.


arol July 3, 2009 at 12:38 am

Southwest is definitely the king of no hidden fees. They give you two bags free. Other airlines charge for the first and increase the fee exponentially as the number of bags increases.

But Southwest is (very) slowly assimilating. They introduced business select (not a separate class of seats–you get priority boarding and some other perks). There are still no assigned seats but they now have an elaborate boarding scheme. Is it only a matter of time?


Don July 3, 2009 at 1:02 am

Am I the only one who is pissed about these fees? If you aren’t breaking even, raise the cost of your tickets. I couldn’t believe it when a flight from LA to Boston which cost my company over $1000 didn’t serve me any food and charged me for each bag i brought aboard. It’s damned insulting!

Charging for each bag just means that everyone will max out their carry-on luggage in an effort to save money and jam the overheads and cost us time and hassle before departing. What an unnecessary headache. I’ll fly southwest every chance i get just becuase they don’t play these games.

I’ve never hated the airline industry as a whole until recently, and now i hate them with a passion!



Leck Mich July 3, 2009 at 3:32 am

When booking a flight on the Quatar Airlines web page, you can pick which seat you want. Unfortunately, the fact that each selection is $26 is nowhere to be found. Except for your credit card statement.


Adrian July 3, 2009 at 7:02 am

One thing not mentioned is charges for food. American Airlines charges $4 to $7 if you want a snack. Oddly they only take credit cards for this, and won’t take cash. The flight attendant swipes your credit card with a handheld thing while in the air. I wonder what happens when the wireless doesn’t work and they can’t verify credit cards.


Marissa July 3, 2009 at 11:14 am

Does anyone know if Continental is really offering wifi and if so, which flights?


Chris July 3, 2009 at 11:40 am

I’ve been flying my unaccompanied minor on Southwest for the last few years now, and contrary to the chart, have never been charged an additional fee. Their lack of annoying fees is one of the main reasons we fly Southwest regularly.


Rich July 3, 2009 at 11:43 am

Great but can you do one for international airlines!


bob July 3, 2009 at 3:23 pm

Not entirely accurate – AirTran waives the bag fees for A+ Elite, Corporate, and business class passengers. This chart notes that for Frontier, but not for AirTran.

Just wanted to point that out!


alchemistmuffin July 3, 2009 at 7:34 pm

Just to simply put,

All US airlines are dead to me.

They have nothing good, period.

They have all become like Ryanair in Ireland.

My suggestion: take amtrak.


Norman Speight July 4, 2009 at 2:06 am

Wrong target!
Why is it that there is no regulation (LAW) which requires all charges (NOT just these) to be stated – clearly – and itemised – up front – for all goods.
Like, for instance, State tax added on AFTER the stated purchase price. There is a clear intention to deceive in the understated (mis-stated, or non-totalled) charges. There is a clear intention to deceive in advertised prices which do not include ALL costs to the purchaser.
Of course the reason is that your elected representatives have personal priorities that do no include you, the voter, until election time. At that time you all forget these rip-offs and accordingly vote.
You vote, they rip, you mug.
Its the same the world over, masquerading aas ‘democracy’
Ever notice how worried they are when the vote goes down?


missing an airline July 4, 2009 at 9:23 am

Where is Alaska Airliens?


Jon Winthorp July 4, 2009 at 9:38 am

Flying has just become such a pain in the buttocks these days I’d rather drive unless it’s just too far to drive reasonably. Road trip is a good alternative even if it takes a couple of days.


DShen July 4, 2009 at 1:51 pm

I believe that gogo internet on AA flights is $12.95 for laptops, not $9.95. I have not tried mobile login yet.


rich (richmanwisco) July 4, 2009 at 1:58 pm

Gee United, $99 for an unaccompanied minor? Way to keep it under a hundred bucks and claim you’re cheaper than USA Air, American and Delta. Marketing geniouses you all are.


Anonymous July 4, 2009 at 4:53 pm

where does virgin rate…..


Russ July 4, 2009 at 9:40 pm

So why is it that on this chart Southwest is obviously the best, but they have 3 stars, the same as United, who sticks passengers with a fee at every opportunity?


Darrell Thompson July 5, 2009 at 12:24 pm

Delta offered me an earlier flight than my scheduled flight at no charge. When I arrived at my destination, no bags. I had to wait until one flight after my original flight to receive my baggage. Why? According to Delta, my bags were shipped space available because I was no longer on my scheduled flight, my bags did not have to ship with me and that baggage was an amenity not a neccessity. Delta is a serious waste of money.


snowman July 5, 2009 at 7:01 pm

What about Northwest? Last I checked they had hubs in Detroit, Memphis, and Minneapolis domestically. Even though they are now owned by Delta Air Lines, you need their hubs under somebody.


Rick V. July 6, 2009 at 3:50 am

One correction — United’s western hub is in Denver, not Salt Lake City. Only Delta has a hub in Utah.


Greg July 6, 2009 at 6:57 am

Actually, you’ve also left out Detroit and Minneapolis which are now Delta hubs since the merger.


Duncan July 6, 2009 at 8:55 am

How about another column for the table listing the costs to pick your seat in advance? Is AirTran the only carrier that adds $4 per seat, per flight, for the ability to choose your seat?


Katiedid July 6, 2009 at 12:14 pm

This chart is already wrong. There is in-flight WiFi on United and American, although select. Also, why leave out Virgin America completely? And I have serious issues with that hub map. And a lot of these fees aren’t “hidden.” What about emergency exit row seating costs and such? I wouldn’t put too much stock in this chart without going directly to the airlines’ own websites to doublecheck info.


Raja July 13, 2009 at 11:33 am

Air travel has reduced citizens to nothing short of the nasty mosquito; swat, slap, bleed.

Just about every single person has a horror story to tell about air travel and it is time for the consumer to return to the day where we were at least human and treated as such.

US Air forces their flight attendents to hawk credit cards up and down the plane, then comes the duty cart followed by a sealed box meal to sell. Want ice with your glass of wine, that will be an additional $2 bucks. I feel sorry for the employees.

Continential Airlines is just as bad. My latest flight proved my bags were just an Olympic Sport for the agents as I watched in horror as my bags were tossed in the air…try to complain and they remove you as you are a second class citizen.

Continental employees have gone in to my luggage and stolen clothes and about anything they could get away with…file a complaint, again…get treated like you are the criminal and not the victim.

Just today, a flight I booked and paid for for a relative can’t be taken due to the fact he was in an accident and lost his leg. No travel voucher for future trip, no refund, not name change so I could use the ticket (since I forked out the money).

Please tell me how we can help to change this industry to what it once was…it is just NOT ALL an issue of money.


Jonathan Munson August 17, 2009 at 8:28 pm

How Northwest Airlines is screwing their customers
August 17, 2009

I recently had the most awful experience I have ever had with an airline. This situation is so ridiculous I would almost find it humorous if it hadn’t happened been me they screwed. Take my advice and never fly with Northwest Airlines!

I booked a multiple destination flight from Columbus to San Antonio, San Antonio to Dallas, and then Dallas back to Columbus through Orbitz. Northwest Airlines issued my ticket. Three days before my flight from San Antonio to Dallas, I decided instead to drive to Dallas early and just catch my flight back to Columbus. I called Orbitz to see if I could get some money back for driving instead of flying one leg of the trip and was told I had to cancel that flight. So I agreed and after the flight was cancelled, I was then told that my flight from Dallas to Columbus had been cancelled as well.

Evidently Northwest loves to collect extra fees for changing tickets. If you purchase a ticket that goes to multiple destinations, you not only can’t cancel any portion of the trip, you have to literally show up for every leg of trip or your entire trip is cancelled! Not only was I not allowed to cancel my flight from San Antonio to Dallas, they told me that if I didn’t show up for my flight in San Antonio, my flight to Columbus would be cancelled as well. How much would it cost me to drive one leg of the trip instead of flying….a minimum of $200, possibly more!

I can’t believe the desperation of Northwest Airlines to try and make an extra buck by hiding fees in their Terms of Agreement! When I called their customer service, they were extremely rude and obnoxious. I was shocked! I would never have believed I would receive this kind of treatment from any business much less a big airline. Now I’m out hundreds of dollars by missing my flight from San Antonio and have to pay a minimum of $200 if I want to re-book my flight from Dallas to Columbus.

People should be aware that Northwest might be cheap to fly, but they are hiding as many fees as they can in the small print of those online agreements you agree to when you click accept. I will never fly Northwest Airlines again and I hope many people will read this and avert disaster. Just pay a little extra and fly Southwest which is an honest company.

The only consolation I have had throughout this awful experience is the knowledge that companies like Northwest, who are dishonest and corrupt, will always go out of business when they resort to this kind of dishonest behavior.

In disgust,
Jonathan Munson


David August 22, 2009 at 7:01 am

You will find that most airlines will cancel the remaining legs of your entire flight if you miss the first leg of if. I don’t like this policy either but I think that they do this so that people don’t look for cheaper combination of flights and not taking the segments that they don’t want.


Betsy January 24, 2010 at 6:37 pm

I think it is total B.S. to charge a person extra for not using a portion of their ticket. What cost is it to the airlines for flying with an empty seat for part of the flight? Less than zero. They actually save money as the weight on the plane is less. They are just screwing the customers out of money. It is a disgrace to treat customers like that. American Airlines made me painfully aware of their same policy. I decided to not take the first part of my trip and was charged close to $400 extra to fly the second part …same time, date, etc. (new ticket with increased cost plus a $150 change fee). Ripoff! As I complained they kept telling me “that is the policy and you agreed to it when you bought the ticket”. When I asked to see the policy they said I could look it up on the internet.
The agent was rude…not making eye contact, ignoring me completely when I asked questions, etc. What horrible customer service and being practically robbed of $400. I’ll drive next time!


SR110107 May 8, 2010 at 7:28 pm

Single (disabled) mom with 3 kids was robbed my United. Charged for our tickets 3 times. That is right I paid for my 1 ticket 3 times and each of my 3 kids tickets x3. SO I paid for 12 Tickets in the end. Oh and when I bought a candy bar for the kids my card wouldnt scan. So she tried 4xs. I find out on my statement that I paid over $45 for one candy bar because it had been run over and over. I have tried for months to get ahold of ANYone a human that is, and have yet to talk to a single being. They do not care AT ALL about you or me, not about the disabled, the elderly, your critter friends, your kids, or your friends. We hold up their business and there would be no THEM without US, so exactly is their goal with the 0% customer service? I would rather walk barefooted in the middle of winter than have anything to do with United. Ever. Me and my kids were so, so close to becoming homeless in a city we didnt know in a state 1000′s of miles from anyone we knew. United told me, in front of my kids ages 11, 6 and 3 that they could call a Taxi for us and that the taxi would probably know where the closest shelter was!!!!!!!!!!! WHAT!!!! Yes, I kid you not. A fellow passenger recorded it on her iphone. But not even this has brought even a hint of life from the dead heart of United. At this point all I can do is laugh at the absolute absurdidty of it. And let people know wherever I can. I sincerly hope that no one ever has an experience this scary for themselves or anyone or thing they care about.


Aviation Maintenance Technician August 13, 2010 at 6:01 am

I speak as a profesional aircraft maintenance technician working for an airline.
While I can understand the airlines need to stop the losses they have been suffering in today’s difficult economy, they are taking the wrong approach. It is as if they have forgotten from where their livelihood derives: i.e., the flying customer. By penalizing the traveler with these ridiculous fees and surcharges, they are alienating their customer base. Passenger aircraft are built with sufficient space for passenger baggage, and while extra weight on the aircraft does increase fuel usage, and therefore flying costs, to figure that cost as $25 per check-in bag is completely excessive. Yes, there are additional costs such as paying baggage handlers, handling equipment, and etc., but I sincerely believe that it should not amount to more than perhaps $10 per bag.
There are many other areas in which money could be saved. There is a great deal of waste in the airlines that I see every day. Many airlines use certain contractors to perform certain services, and these contractors are often guilty of “padding” their bills.
Pilots get an inordinate amount of Paid Time Off (PTO), a legacy of the pre-deregulation era that the pilot’s unions have insisted on maintaining. Usually, a Captain gets one week out of four as PTO, in addition to his regular vacation time. This could add up to as many as 17 paid weeks off each year! Considering what pilots get paid, this adds up to a tidy sum!
There are many other similar wasteful practices in the airline industry.
Has anyone noticed that Southwest is NOT charging most of these fees, and seems to be doing quite well, thank you!


AirlineHobby guy June 14, 2011 at 6:08 am

The fees the airlines pay to the credit card companies total hundreds of millions per year .. and as explained in this video the airlines could actually be re-direct the credit card fees back to the passengers … if they wanted to…


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